From Publishers Weekly
Sanderson (The Crystal Mountain) draws from several Russian fairy tales to fashion a clever story about a well-intentioned young horseman, his magical mare and a greedy czar. The sumptuous oil paintings take immediate command of the double-page spreads, the sometimes breathtaking scenes distinguished by lustrous hues and intricate particulars. On a quest to seek his fortune "and perhaps to find an adventure or two as well," Alexi encounters a magnificent mare who pledges to serve the lad if he spares her life. The horse leads her new master to the palace of the czar, who hires Alexi as his horseman, yet is bitter that he cannot claim Alexi's imposing horse as his own. Disgruntled, the czar demands of the lad seemingly impossible tasks, among them capturing the elusive firebird and fetching a maiden from "a distant eastern land" to be the ruler's bride. The wise equine is the true hero of the story, valiantly coming to Alexi's rescue in each episode end eventually bringing about the not unexpected happy-ever-after dnouement. Sanderson's narrative has a lush, lyrical quality, and her renderings of lavish architectural detail, elaborate period dress and an unsullied natural world will bring youngsters back for repeat readings. Her dramatically lit firebird is nothing short of resplendent. Ages 8-up.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 3-5, younger for reading aloud. Sanderson includes elements from several Russian fairy tales in this colorful picture book for older readers. Alexi, a worthy young man, befriends the magical golden mare, who helps him meet the czar's increasingly unreasonable demands. Together they capture the elusive firebird, bring Yelena the Fair to the palace, and retrieve her magic ring. Alexi then helps Yelena work a bit of magic on the czar, who jumps into a cauldron of boiling water with the hope of becoming young again. He emerges as a baby, to be adopted by the new czar, Alexi, and his bride, Yelena. The pace never flags in this romantic adventure. Its mix of several traditional elements leads to an episodic structure and a rather long text; however, the story will hold readers' attention, though each folkloric element loses some of its dramatic force in this blended version. Rich in color and decorative detail, the oil paintings have a distinctly narrative quality that enhances the book . Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved